It’s not often we come across incidents of sexual abuse or sexual assault occurring between residents at a nursing facility, but it does happen. Take the recent media coverage of one Louis Lawson, an 87-year old man who was caught by staff sexually assaulting an unidentified 94-year old facility resident.
Investigators with the state agency that regulates nursing homes, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), are still looking into what exactly occurred last November, when a staff member of the Village on High Ridge walked in on Lawson performing oral sex on another male resident, who has remained unidentified in the reports. That victim is said to be severely disabled and suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
When asked by staff and police why Lawson was performing fellatio, he insisted that the victim “liked it”, and that he was just “horsing around”. He has been charged with sexual battery, and is being held at the Palm Beach County Jail.
More shockingly, residents of the home and former roommates of Lawson have insinuated that he was overtly sexual, having grabbed or fondled staff, or been known to pleasure himself in front of others. That the staff may have known or documented Lawson’s sexual deviance and inappropriate behavior, and did nothing to prevent it represents substantial neglect on behalf of staff, management, and owners of the facility.
Who is Liable for a Sexual Assault that Occurs at a Nursing Home?
Who is liable for a sexual assault that is perpetrated against a resident on the grounds of a nursing home depends on the circumstances. But in most cases, the nursing home itself can and should be held liable for the assault.
The reason is that ultimately the safety and securing of every resident at the home is the responsibility of the home itself. Further, because many of the facilities in Florida receive government-subsidized revenues including Medicare and Medicaid, they are under strict scrutiny and regulation by the various state agencies that exist to ensure residents receive the care and protection they deserve.
In addition to the various business or liability insurers the nursing home contracts with, the nursing home owners, or specific staff members can also be held liable.
A History of Deficiencies at Village on High Ridge
Village on High Ridge, in Lake Worth, Florida, formerly known as the American-Finish Nursing Home, is no stranger to ACHA, the agency that investigates complaints by residents of nursing homes. The same facility that Lawson was a resident of at the time of his sexual assault against another resident is underscored by violations in the rules and laws regulating skilled care and nursing homes.
For the full year 2015, Village on High Ridge was cited for more than 90 violations during four different visits, some scheduled, and some complaint-driven. In the most recent report, the nursing home was cited for 46 deficiencies, including:
- Failure to document an incident in which one resident was verbally abused by another resident
- The observance of a large bruise on a patient that could not be explained by staff, and was not documented in any injury reports
- Deficiencies in resident rooms, including faulty lighting, and emergency assistance bells not working properly
- Sanitary standards not being met in the kitchen, laundry area, and the dining room, as well as other shared spaces
Through Village on High Ridge has not received any fines in the last three years, the facility has earned only 2 stars out of 5 on the federal nursing home comparison website, Nursing Home Compare (medicare.gov).
When Sexual Assault Occurs at a Nursing Home
Sexual assaults at nursing homes is not a common occurrence, but it does happen. The perpetration of sexual assault on the elder is a grotesque act of violence and abuse that is unimaginable for most of us, and more so for those among us that trust these facilities to care for our loved ones.
Sexual assault is an area of personal injury law we practice, and we have handled sexual assault cases involving the elderly, and nursing home residents. In 2015, our law firm settled a sexual assault case at a nursing home in which a 93-year old mother and former world-class pianist had been severely and traumatically sexually assaulted with an unknown object. The terms and parties to that settlement remain highly confidential.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted as an elder, a resident of a hospital or nursing home, or by a caretaker at home or in any other location, or if you merely suspect that abuse or assault has occurred, we suggest you contact our firm immediately for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.